Edmonton skip Kevin Martin favoured for gold at Vancouver Olympics
He's among curling's elite now but there was a time when Kevin Martin wasn't so sure it was the sport for him.
EDMONTON - He's among curling's elite now but there was a time when Kevin Martin wasn't so sure it was the sport for him.
A decent hockey player growing up, Martin was torn between the two sports when deciding where to go to college. Lethbridge or Medicine Hat for their hockey opportunities or Edmonton's Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to pursue curling.
"My marks weren't that good and I thought maybe I'd only get into one of the schools and that would make up my mind for me," Martin says in a recent interview. "But then I got accepted to all three so then I had to make a choice and obviously I went to NAIT to curl."
Martin, who threw his first rock at age seven, says he was won over by the strategy of curling.
"It wasn't an easy decision. I still love hockey," says Martin. "I'm a big hockey fan, I love watching it but I just got deep into curling and it gets in your blood. Curling is kind of like golf that way - once you get bitten by it, boy, you really enjoy it.
"It's all about strategy and angles. It's a math game and so are curling and golf and snooker and even chess for that matter."
Martin, a native of Killam, Alta., who now curls out of Edmonton, has always appreciated such challenges. A member of the chess club in high school, Martin also excelled at snooker as a youngster. He says he spent "hours and hours" playing the game at a local club and still picks up a pool cue on a regular basis. Golf is also a passion.
But his choice of curling has paid off handsomely. A four-time Brier champion, Martin has 10 Grand Slam titles on the World Curling Tour and has led his teams to some $2 million in winnings. He has represented Canada at two Olympics, winning silver in 2002 at Salt Lake City.
Martin, 43, won his first Brier in 1991. Over the years, he has learned not to get too high or too low after winning or losing.
"I don't get upset with much anymore," Martin says. "I would definitely take losses really hard when I was young but you lose enough and you win enough that pretty soon you can take either. You can win properly or lose OK."
"Keeping yourself on an even keel I think is the best way to play sports but it's not easy to do that. It takes a lot of years to be able to do that."
That attitude explains Martin's cool take on his Olympic silver.
"You try your best and unfortunately it didn't work out and yeah, it was a tough loss to take but there's nothing you can do with these things," he says. "So no I don't think I overreacted to it but it sure makes you try hard and train as hard again to get back."
Martin, considered one of the favourites in the Olympic field, heads to Vancouver with a team chosen with the Games in mind. He and third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert have an easy camaraderie on the ice.
"I wanted a team that could play strong and consistent with a four-year plan of trying to get to Vancouver," he says. "That was definitely part of it."
They all bring something to the table, says Martin.
"Ben and Marc obviously because of their throwing ability but naturally sweeping on opposite sides, that's not very common," said Martin. "Johnny Mo is just a brilliant athlete - he just makes a lot of shots."
Martin will also be joined by longtime coach Jules Owchar. They first met at NAIT and Owchar has been one of the constants in Martin's life ever since.
"When I went to NAIT I knew Jules was the coach and I knew he was the best coach around," Martin recalls. "After I got into my classes I went to see him to see if there was a chance I could try out for the curling team so that's when we met. He has been like family for a long time."
The two men still go to the ice to practise three times a week. Martin likens Owchar to a swing coach in golf who focuses mostly on the curlers' mechanics.
"He just has a natural eye for seeing glitches or small changes in a delivery and you can't teach that type of thing," Martin says. "You either have it or you don't."
Martin's silver in 2002 is one of three medals for Canada in men's curling. Mike Harris also captured silver in 1998 at Nagano while Brad Gushue won gold four years ago in Turin.